(John 6:15 ESV) 15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
Many of the Jews were desperately unhappy with Roman rule. Moreover, they imagined that the Messiah would be a king like the Maccabees, who had led the Jews to revolt against the successors to Alexander the Great and become an independent nation for a time ending when the Romans conquered them.
(John 6:16-18 ESV) 16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing.
Jesus evidently instructed the disciples to take the boat and cross the Sea without him. Imagine hearing Jesus say, “You take the boat; I’ll catch up!”
(John 6:19-20 ESV) 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”
Of course, they were terrified. Humans do not walk on water, especially water that’s being churned by a storm. They thought it might be a ghost. No flesh-and-blood human could do such a thing!
(John 6:21 ESV) 21 Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.
Imagine the shock when Jesus asked to come on board! Jesus not only walked on the water, he’d walked 3 or 4 miles in a storm.
(John 6:22 ESV) 22 On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone.
Although Jesus’ miracle had only been seen by the disciples, the crowd realized that Jesus’ presence required an explanation.
(John 6:23-25 ESV) 23 Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”
And so they asked.
(John 6:26-27 ESV) 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”
Jesus accuses them of wanting breakfast rather than his teaching. They shouldn’t focus their energies on mere food, but “food that endures to eternal life.”
This is surely an allusion to —
(Deu 8:2-3 ESV) 2 And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. 3 And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
We’re familiar with the bold text from Jesus’ temptations by Satan, but the original text refers to God letting Israel become hungry so that they’d turn to him. Sustenance is found in pursuing God, not tilling the land. Follow God first, and he’ll worry about the meal plan.
Jesus says that “God has set his seal” on Jesus. In the ancient world, seals indicated ownership and authority. If a document was impressed with the seal of the king, it was binding law, even if the seal had been impressed by someone who’d stolen it. Thus, to carry God’s seal was to have his full authority.
(John 6:28-29 ESV) 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
The Jews ask, if we shouldn’t work for earthly food, what should we work for? Jesus replies ironically, the work you should do is believe in Jesus. It’s not work at all; it’s faith!
Recall that “believe in” can be equally well translated as “be faithful to” or “be loyal to.” There’s certainly an ethical component to Christianity. It matters how we live, but the good we do must be prompted by our relationship with Jesus. It must be fruit of the Spirit. Works done for any other reason, no matter how good and noble, are not works of God.
(John 6:30-31 ESV) 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'”
The Jews seek a sign. They were being audacious. After all, many of them had just been miraculously fed. They’d figured out that Jesus had crossed the Sea by miraculous means. Why another sign? Because they were hungry again?
Indeed, they seek to get Jesus to provide more food by referring to God’s gift of manna to the Israelites. If Jesus is the Prophet who would be like Moses, make food fall out of the sky, just as Moses did!
(John 6:32-33 ESV) 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
Jesus responds that Moses had given them nothing — the manna had come from God.
And now God is giving an even greater gift — the Messiah. Jesus is the “bread of God.” After all, Jesus is the Logos, the Word, and we should not live by bread alone but by the Word of God. (Do you see how it all connects?)
(John 6:34-35 ESV) 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
Jesus now becomes very transparent, saying that he is bread of life. He is the Word.